2010, 2011 & a $4K/month Challenge

A few months back with what seemed like two months of work left to do, I publicly committed myself to launching jMockups in four weeks. The number of things I wanted to get done prior to launching was daunting, but I desperately needed to get the product out there and in the hands of actual users to start collecting feedback.

How’d it go? I didn’t launch it in four weeks; I launched in less than three.

Public accountability is a powerful thing. Sebastian Marshal writes about his own experience:

If I hadn’t set this goal and been accountable publicly, to my friend and to everyone who reads here, I wouldn’t have done it in two weeks. Honestly – I’m pretty internally motivated, but I’ve had a lot of stuff going on the last two weeks, it wouldn’t have happened. But it did happen, largely because I was publicly accountable.

This productivity hack that works especially well for me. I’m an INTJ on the Meyers Briggs type indicator and one of our defining characteristics is the value we place on competence. By publicly committing myself to launch, I put my own competence on the line so I did what it took to meet the goal. Practically this meant postponing a lot of the things on my todo list until after the launch, working some long nights and weekends, and taking a week off of work.

Publicly committing myself worked well for me once, so I’m trying it again.

The Scene

I spent most of 2010 building. I launched Preceden in late January and continued working on it through May. In June I started working on jMockups and launched it in late October. My focus in 2010 (and largely 2009 and 2008) was on learning and building. I knew I eventually wanted to make money off of the apps, but money wasn’t my primary goal.

I’ll be with my current job until October 2012 so I can’t pursue this full time just yet. Because I have a day job I’ve never had to rely on my web app income to survive. It’s always been like Oh, I had another sign up. That’s nice. That’s got to change.

October 2010–a mere 21 months away–will approach fast. In order for web app development/entrepreneurship to be viable long term, I have to start making more money. My true passion lies in building things–not money–but without money I can’t spend my time building things.

The Goal

I don’t have exact numbers (which is part of the problem), but Preceden currently makes about $500/month and costs $70 to operate. jMockups makes $24/month (whohoo!) and costs about $200/month to operate (doh!). Taken together, I’m making about $250/month.

It’s not entirely fair to value the apps in terms of their current profits, but that’s obviously a big part of it. Preceden targets a small niche and has a small goal: be the best timeline tool. jMockups targets a large niche and has an ambitious goal: improve the way people design websites. Long term, jMockups has the potential to be a home run; Preceden doesn’t.

With that in mind:

My goal is to make $4,000 per month from Preceden and jMockups by the end of 2011.

That’s about 16x what they make now. If a public commitment isn’t scary, it’s probably not ambitious enough. And since this is terrifying, I figure it’s a good number to shoot for.

I’ll make monthly progress updates starting at the end of January.

The Plan

Preceden has a marketing problem. It’s is a quality tool that has a lot of happy users, but not enough people know about it. I need to get more people to the site and need more of them to convert to paying customers. My plan with Preceden is to start marketing it heavily (via things like AdWords), perform lots of A/B testing, and optimize the hell out of it by way of extensive analysis. If I can get Preceden to a point where outbound marketing has a measurable positive ROI, I’ll be in really good shape.

jMockups has a product problem. The tool is good, but not great. Trying to change the way people design websites is hard (I probably should have picked a more narrow niche to start with, but that’s another story). I’ve been adding two or three new features a week since it launched in October, but I haven’t spent much time on the other things it takes to create a successful web product. For example, there’s currently way too much friction from when a user arrives at the site and to when they create a mockup that they’re happy with. And it shows in the usage metrics (75% of new users create 1 mockup and never come back). In 2011, I’ll continue working on the product but I’ll place a stronger emphasis on usability, education, and building a community. The revenue should follow from doing these things well.

I have a sole founder problem. But not really. I like the independence of working alone, but having someone else to build with and bounce ideas off of would be great. I’m not going to spend a lot of time actively searching for a cofounder, but if the opportunity presents itself I’d definitely give it a shot. (Interested? Drop me a note: matthew.h.mazur@gmail.com)


So here’s to 2011. I don’t know how things are going to turn out, but hopefully with this public commitment they’ll turn out a little bit better than they otherwise would have.

7 thoughts on “2010, 2011 & a $4K/month Challenge

  1. I’ve made a similar goal for myself to make $2k/month with my app CareLogger (currently making a few hundred).

    I quit my job to work on it and I’ve set my goal for a few months.

    Good luck.

    Are you on twitter?


    Care Logger looks pretty slick . I like your blog too — you should post more often! Let me know if there’s anything I can do help – Matt

    PS: I’m @jmockups

  2. “I have a sole founder problem. But not really. I like the independence of working alone, but having someone else to build with and bounce ideas off of would be great.”

    – This is me all over, man. I love building things. Want to replace my income from freelance programming, but don’t care about getting rich – just want to be able to build cool shit.

    But every time I launch something new I fall down after less than a month because I don’t have the support network in place to get through the dip in enthusiasm that always comes!

    I have plans (don’t we all!) to launch a webapp, and also a collection of marketing plugins – not sure if we’d be able to work together on anything, but it’d be great to keep in touch and bounce ideas anyway! Shoot me an email if you like.


    I’m with you. The hardest part of this whole thing is not building the product but getting through that period after you launch when the post-launch traffic dies off. The best advice I can give you is to keep building and marketing your product. Success will follow. Best of luck – Matt

  3. I am in very much the same position, for the start of the new year, I quit my job as a college professor to work on my portfolio of products full time. Looking forward to starting the first week of the new year with a bang.

    By the way, if you are looking for a solution for hosting your web app without having to fork out $270/month, you should look at ScaleEngine. Designed for web apps, it uses a purely usage based pricing model, so your costs scale with your app. We are always looking for developers like you, as that is what our system was designed for.

    Plus, it’s always fun to have customers that play Tetrinet :p


    Hey thanks for the the pointer — I’ll check it out. And yeah, TetriNET kicks ass. – Matt :)

  4. IMHO, the plan has 1 flaw: 2 products. If you dropped jMockups and concentrated on Preceden, you’d have one less product to worry about and you’d actually have to increase the income 8 times not 16.

    As a lone developer you’ll have a much better chance of getting a home run with a very well made niche product. Your own number already back this up also.

    Anyway, I hope you succeed! :)


    Preceden is a great little tool, but it’s potential is limited. jMockups is a much harder app, but the upside is huge if it works out. And like I said in the post, I have time. Appreciate the thoughts – Matt

  5. Kudos to you on getting started and setting ambitious but realistic goals for yourself. My partner and I have been bootstrapping for 2.5 years and in Q4 2010 launched our first “freemium” service (other revenue streams are advertising and licensing.). 2011 will be the first year we take “salaries” out of our business to pay ourselves.


    Baby Name Wizard — what an idea! I’d love to hear more about your experience. Two and a half years of bootstrapping is a long time to go without a salary… you must have a hell of a story. – Matt

  6. Followed this link from @adii. Good luck on your goals. I’m sure you’ll make at least some of them happen. I think henk has a point, between a day job, and two products you might be spread a little thin.

    Maybe you can concentrate on Preceden and use the cash flow to get some help for jMockups. It may not be a homerun but it would be a good base hit and it still advances the game.


    Working on two products at once is tough, but since I’ve got some time I don’t need to rush. Plus it looks like I may start working with someone else on these products, which will help a lot. Appreciate the comment – Matt

  7. My story exactly, except it was with one product only. But the amount of work is huge and there’s still a lot to be done ahead of me. :)

    Finding a parter is hard. But finding someone to do things for you should be easier. Contract as much as you can, what you know someone else can do better than you. After 2 years of working on the product all by myself, having someone to take something off my mind is priceless.

    Feel free to shoot questions if you feel like. Good luck, it’s a heck of a ride! :)


    Thanks for the tips. After writing this post a reader contacted me about a possible partnership and it looks like it might work out well. Definitely too much to do for one person. – Matt

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